Modeling intrinsic vulnerability of complex karst aquifers: modifying the COP method to account for sinkhole density and fault location


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November 2019


This study investigates a method of karst-aquifer vulnerability modeling that modifies the concentration-overburden-precipitation (COP) method to better account for structural recharge pathways through noncarbonate rocks, and applies advancements in remote-sensing sinkhole identification. Karst aquifers are important resources for human and agricultural needs worldwide, yet they are often highly complex and have high vulnerability to contamination. While many methods of estimating intrinsic vulnerability of karst aquifers have been developed, few methods acknowledge the complication of layered karst aquifer systems, which may include interactions between carbonate and noncarbonate rocks. This paper describes a modified version of the COP method applied to the Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, USA, the primary catchment area supplying springs along the north side of the Grand Canyon. The method involves two models that, together, produce higher resolution and greater differentiation of vulnerability for both the deep and perched aquifers beneath the Kaibab Plateau by replacing the original sinkhole distance parameter with sinkhole density. Analyses indicate that many karst regions would benefit from the methodology developed for this study. Regions with high-resolution elevation data would benefit from the incorporation of sinkhole density data in aquifer vulnerability assessments, and deeper semi-confined karst aquifers would benefit greatly from the consideration of fault location.


Karst, Vulnerability Mapping, Groundwater Vulnerability, Semi-Arid Region, Usa

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Hydrogeology Journal, Vol. 27 (2019-11-11).